Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments Thirty-First Report

Appendix 2

S.I. 2003/2124: memorandum from the Department of Health

Patients' Forums (Functions) Regulations 2003 (S.I. 2003/2124)

1. These Regulations are to make further provision in relation to Patients' Forums established under section 15 of the National Health Service Reform and Health Care Professions Act 2002. Section 15 is to be commenced on 1 September 2003. Patients' Forums are an essential feature of the new patient and public involvement system being established in the NHS which will replace the current Community Health Councils.

2. The Regulations were widely consulted on. The consultation period ended on 16 July. However, as a result of representations made by key external stakeholders after the close of the formal period of consultation, it was necessary to make late adjustments to the instructions for the Regulations. Ensuring that these important representations were fully incorporated into the overall Patients' Forums framework resulted in additional time taken to finalise the Regulations. The Department considered that the additional time was justified as the views received were critical for the effective implementation of the Patients' Forums provisions.

3. The Regulations are being laid before Parliament in breach of the 21 day rule for the reasons set out at paragraph 2 above. The Department greatly regrets the need in this case to break the 21 day rule.

August 2003

S.I. 2003/2124: further memorandum from the Department of Health

1. The Committee considered the above instrument at its meeting on 28 October 2003 and requested a memorandum on the following points:

(1) Regulation 3(2) refers to the purposes specified in paragraph (1) but that paragraph does not specify any. Explain the purposes for which the power of entry is intended to be exercisable.

2. The reference in regulation 3(2) to the purposes specified in paragraph (1) is an error for which the Department apologises. It was caused by a change in drafting just before the Order was made and the phrase should have been removed consequentially on that change. The power of entry is intended to be exercisable for the purposes of the Patients' Forum's functions. Examples might include a visit to a hospital maternity ward about which patients/the public have complained or a visit to a GP surgery which the Forum has heard is lacking basic facilities.

3. The Department will amend the provision at the earliest opportunity.

(2) Verify the references in regulation 6(4) to paragraphs (1)(a) and (3)(b).

4. The Department understands the query in relation to regulation 6(4) to be asking for an explanation of the references to paragraph (1)(a) and (3)(b) in that provision. The Department intended that where information is confidential and relates to a living individual (a paragraph (1)(a) case); or is prohibited from disclosure because the information can identify an individual (a case to which paragraph (3)(a) applies); but in either case the information could be anonymised, then the Patients' Forum is to have the right under paragraph (4) to require the information to be disclosed in anonymised form. The Department accepts that the references in paragraph (4) could have been clearer.

5. As requested the Department is forwarding, also as an electronic version, a copy of the memorandum dated August 2003 relating to these Regulations.

November 2003

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